Police chief wants review of consent age

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One of the country's most senior police officers has called for a debate on lowering the age of consent, suggesting that it could be reduced to bring Scotland in line with other countries. Chief superintendent Clive Murray, president of the Association of Scottish Police Superintendents (ASPS), fears some children are being unfairly criminalised by current legislation which does not differentiate between "youthful natural instinct" and sexual abuse.

While the age of consent in Britain is 16, he pointed to countries such as Canada and Austria where 14-year-olds can have sex legally and Spain, where sex at 13 is permitted. The age of sexual consent in Britain has not changed since 1885 when campaigners fought to raise it from 13 to prevent child prostitution.

Murray's comments will re-ignite the debate sparked by Terry Grange, the chief constable of Dyfed-Powys police, who last week suggested men should not be labelled paedophiles for having sex with 13-year-old girls. It provoked a storm of protest, with critics accusing Grange of "eroding" moral values and giving the "green light" to child molesters, perverts and other abusers. [...]

Many European countries, including Austria, Bulgaria and Croatia, set the age of consent at 14. In Canada, intercourse with a child of 12 can be considered lawful if the partner is less than two years older. In Finland, sex with someone under 16 is not considered sexual abuse of a child if there is no great difference in the ages or the mental and physical maturity of the persons involved. The Philippines, which has one of the world's lowest ages of consent, allows sex with 12-year-olds.

source: Article 'Police chief wants review of consent age' by Mark Macaskill; www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2090-2472682.html; The Sunday Times - Scotland; 26 November 2006